Looking out from a cafe in Paris at street art vendors and Notre DameIn full disclosure: Paris and I didn’t groove together as well as London and I did. My trip to London was a dream, from start to finish. Paris, however, was a struggle. This was partly due to the fact that I had already been traveling for nine days by the time I got to Paris, and I was getting tired. This was also due to the language barrier, which caused my stay to feel more like an intensely difficult challenge than a carefree vacation. But the most important reason why Paris was a struggle for me was that . . . I had wardrobe issues. And so, without further ado, let’s discuss what to wear in Paris, as well as what not to wear, in case you wish to pack a suitcase more appropriately than I did, before traveling to the famously stylish capital of France.

Do wear traditional Parisian styles and colors.

I saw a lot of stripes in Paris. There were a lot of black and white stripes. And navy blue and white stripes. There was also a lot of solid red. And there were a lot of berets. It’s perfectly okay to wear stereotypically Parisian attire in Paris!

For example, here’s a woman in red and white stripes, exiting the famous cafe Les Deux Magots:
Les Deux Magots cafe in Paris with people wearing different styles of clothing
Hemingway and other famous writers used to hang out at this cafe. I had intended to hang out at this cafe, as well; but as you can see, it was very crowded when I was there. So I went elsewhere. Guess I’m not as cool as Hemingway. But back to clothing. I noticed that, for men, funky hats and colorful shoes are in. Check out the dude in the crosswalk with a white hat and neon green shoes.

Young woman in traditional Parisian attire, in the crowd before the Mona Lisa at the Louvre And did you notice the young woman in full-on traditional Parisian attire in the crowd before the Mona Lisa, in my first blog post about the Louvre? Here’s a detail of the photo. I did not notice her until after I got home and looked at my photos, so it’s not like she stood out to me as bizarrely dressed. On the contrary—she fit right in.

It’s also okay to add modern flair to traditional fashions. Check out the dude in red and black walking past the Notre Dame cathedral in the first photo (at the beginning of this blog post). Now here’s a fellow who knows how to go traditional, but with a modern flair. And note that he, also, is wearing a funky hat and colorful shoes.

Do be fashionable and stylish.

Fashionable couple in front of the stage of La Maroquinerie, a live music venue in ParisI shared this photo earlier, in my blog post about migraines and other health issues. I wish you could see more clearly how well dressed this young couple was—the two whose heads are leaning romantically toward each other. I was in awe, particularly of the woman. She had short hair, styled chicly, as you can perhaps see here. She was wearing a dress that had two thick, long, black, vertical stripes from collar to the hem at her knees. And her fabulous shoes had heels, but also a hardcore, stabilizing thickness to them—which was a good thing, as she needed to stand on them for hours at this concert.

Artwork that says NO ONE IS BORN HATING ANOTHER PERSON BECAUSE OF THE COLOUR OF HIS SKIN...Later, I was near this piece of outdoor wall art—one of those works that’s easier to read when you step back—when I met another fashionably well-dressed person. He looked like he had walked right out of the 60s. But he also looked very modern. I loved the jazzy hat, the double-lapelled jacket, the stylish shoes. He turned out to be, like me, a lost American. Luckily, I had just found where he was trying to go, and he then found where I was trying to go. He was in a hurry, so we exchanged numbers, and after a series of comical mishaps, met up for drinks very late that night. Kudos to him for knowing how to dress in Paris to impress a woman! And we parted friends (and nothing more; no one freak out).

Do go au naturel . . . depending on who you are.

Outside facade of the Paris Opera House - Palais GarnierI visited the famous Paris Opera House, known as Palais Garnier, on my first evening in the city. Here’s a shot of the appropriately majestic exterior, with a bus photobombing the scene just to remind us what century we’re in. Thus I fulfilled my original inspiration for traveling to Paris, which I explained in this earlier post.

Interior theatre of the Paris Opera House - Palais GarnierThe interior was equally majestic, with a colorful ceiling fresco painted by Marc Chagall. This photo does not do justice to the massiveness of the chandelier. I would not want to be under it if it fell!

So what does this have to do with what to wear in Paris? At the opera house, I saw an excellent ballet. I especially enjoyed the first dance, set to music by the great Philip Glass (the second movement of Symphony No. 2); Sol León and Paul Lightfoot were the choreographers and set/costume designers. Two of the many dancers were stationary on extremely tall stilts, except for their arms, which danced at key intervals to the music. It was a very interesting performance. It got even more interesting when, halfway through, one of those two tall dancers, the female one, dropped her shirt and performed the remainder of the dance topless.

This was was my first night in Paris. Welcome to France, Liza!!

However, I did not see any other topless ladies in Paris. Unless, of course, you count the lovely Venus de Milo and other statues, such as this impressive collection in a cafe window:
Scultpture and statues in a cafe window in Paris
 
So I don’t necessarily recommend going the au naturel route. It is a good idea to pack a suitcase before traveling to Paris. With clothes in it.

Do wear swan feathers . . . if you are a swan.

Check out this elegant Parisian look:
Two swans on the Seine in Paris (with riverbank and buildings)
 
This fashionable style merits a closeup of the models on the runway . . . er, swimway:
Two swans on the Seine in Paris (closeup)
 

This idea is for daring, fashion-forward types only.

seeds from trees underneath chairs at a Paris cafeThese cottonlike seeds were falling from trees all over Paris when I was there. They were wafting through the open doors of cafes and collecting in clumps on the ground. At times, I found it difficult to eat a meal and enjoy a view in peace, for these kept falling into my food and face.

Are these from cottonwood trees? I have no idea. But perhaps Lady Gaga, or someone else on the cutting edge of fashion, might hire someone to make a dress out of these for their next red-carpet appearance. Just a suggestion.

Don’t wear uncomfortable shoes.

View from the New York Cafe in Paris of the Eiffel Tower, obstructed by a treeSo there I was, sitting at a cafe called The New York, which was, oddly, the only cafe I could find at this particular location, across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. So I ordered some New York cheesecake (“When in Rome . . .”) and a glass of wine, and sat back to enjoy the view.

The view was obstructed, but it was still a very good view. So I snapped a photo. Those cottonlike seeds were everywhere, so I turned around in my seat and snapped the photo above.

And then I snapped a photo of my little reminder of home (the napkin and cheesecake), my little reminder of Paris (the wine), and my little reminder that fashion and style are not—contrary to popular belief!—the most important things to consider, when packing a suitcase to travel to Paris.
The New York cafe in Paris. On the table, cheesecake and wine. Under the table, comfortable shoesYou see, In London, my shoes broke. I found a shoe store and bought a new pair. These were sensible flats with style. Of course, walking around all day, for days on end, in new, unbroken-in shoes is never a good idea. By the time I got to Paris, I had developed a massive blister on my foot. I bought some foot pads at a pharmacy, which helped with my comfort while walking. But the blister remained stubbornly alive . . . and kept growing.

After a couple miserable days, I transferred my new foot pads to my running shoes and started walking around Paris in comfort. Duh—why did I not do that sooner?

I confess, I have shoe issues. Like many (dare I say most?) women, I love fashionable shoes. But even more, I love running. And walking. And gardening. And strolling through London and Paris and Washington, D.C. Time and again, my cute shoes let me down. Time and again, I revert to my trusty running shoes . . . and then get bored of the sporty look and long to switch things up in favor of the stylish look . . . and feel lucky one day . . . and try the cute shoes again . . . and it’s a terrible, vicious circle.

I keep telling myself that, one of these days, I’m going to give up on fashion and start wearing running shoes everywhere I go. That would be fine for Paris, but I’m not sure how that would go over at my next work conference. . . .

TL;DR

You’re wondering what to wear in Paris? Here’s a quick-glance guide:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. That way, you can walk around all day and enjoy the world-class architecture, museums, gardens, and more.
  2. Bonus points if you dress stylishly.
  3. Triple bonus points if you manage to do both 1 and 2 at once! (And if you do, or have suggestions for managing this perennial dilemma, let me know your thoughts!)
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